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Between the Bridge and the River

Between the Bridge and the River - Craig Ferguson There's a good chance that, had I not known who the author of this book was, I wouldn't have been interested in reading it. It's received some good reviews, and even a starred review or two from library publications, but the premise didn't really strike me as anything outstanding. But I like Craig Ferguson, and it turned out that this isn't his first time writing a full-fledged story (he's written three movies). By the time it was selected for my book club group, it was pretty much a done deal that I would read it.

This is an odd, quirky book. It focuses on a handful of disparate, unrelated characters who are going through their own epiphanies. One is a disgraced televangelist; another is a man diagnosed with terminal cancer; another is a sleazy manipulator using his brother for his own gain. Each is looking for something significant, something important (though some are trying harder to find it than others), and their journeys to find what they seek ultimately intersect. It probably would have been easy for the author to have them all group up at the end of the novel and have it be some happy-go-lucky confluence of events; instead, their interaction is limited, and in some cases, fleeting. So chalk one up to the author for doing something unexpected.

It's hard to talk about the plot for this book. It exists, but mostly as a framework to showcase the characters. That being said, this isn't exactly a character-driven novel, either. As I mentioned, "odd and quirky" is a good way to describe this novel. You'll be caught up in the events of each character's life, and keep reading the book because he jumps from character to character between chapters, usually at those moments where you want to know NOW what happens to Character X, just as he takes us to Character Y. It's a cheap way to build suspense and keep you reading, but damn it, it works.

The book is also oddly (there's that word again) poignant. I say that because the book is a little profane, and sometimes offensive, but the author typically finds a way to use those moments to make some comment about life that is spot on. He doesn't hold back from what he really wants to say -- he skewers religion, love, Hollywood, sex, and what it means to be a number of different nationalities over the course of the novel -- but he never sounds callous, mean, or cruel as he does so. He's just making observations, tempered through his characters. My favorite moment was when I realized the significance of the title of the book.

This book probably isn't for everyone, but I think it's worth reading. It certainly has a lot to say.